It was a night of female musicians representing a varied scale of genres for the crowd at the Harvard Yard Bar in L.A.’s Koreatown neighborhood. Brought together in part by Normandie Records and the Exotic Avocado Podcast, the showcase included locals Maria Blues, Nicolette Smith and Irene Diaz. The ‘Hole In The Wall’ venue was anything but as the local music scene has been recently exploding with smaller venues like these showcasing the immense talent Los Angeles has to offer.
Starting with Maria Blues and ‘The Homies’, the latin-ska rhythms created several magical moments on stage as they transcended the spectrum of local musicians setting themselves apart from their contemporaries. The songstress held her Epiphone guitar close as she took turns sharing the contrasting sounds of her band. With a trumpeter, bassist and drummer backing her large sound, the reggae-influenced ballad “Otra Vez” was a cumbia-inspired track that left the dance floor was officially steaming with the few dancers looking for a challenge in the July heatwave. The pep in the ska-laced music won the crowd over as the band included the infamous cover from Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farrés with the track “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás.”
Following close behind, local singer-songwriter Nicolette Smith came to throw a wrench into the indie-rock music paradigm. Influenced by Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz, Smith has absorbed the California sounds with her latest single, “Beasts Bigger Than Me.” The adventurous song was large and powerful as her band exploded with harmonic layers on the track that clutches that audiences’ last gasp of breath. Smith’s vocals were beyond dramatic on the track “Bones” as she left the crowd motionless with her bittersweet song. Her backing band was on point as they swung around the sun and moon capturing every bit of flavor with each track. As an artist who has had music in her bloodlines even before she was born, Nicolette Smith has become one of the more noteworthy artists to come from Los Angeles looking to capitalize on the power of rock and or roll.
Headlining the special event, Irene Diaz is a local singer-songwriter with an indelible voice that instantly warms every room with a sultry and polished sound that sticks with to listener until the end of time. Featured on Sofar Sounds and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, Diaz has been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Amy Winehouse with latin-influenced sophistication. Stationed behind a keyboard, Diaz was backed by ukulele and multi-instrumental musician, Carolyn Cardoza. The powerful and intimate sounds on her latest single “Lovers and Friends” was beyond dynamic as the looping beats on the keyboard opened the flood gates to let in her supreme voice. The soothing lyrics on “Crazy Love” and “Let Me Go” had the fans floored as the piercing blend of vocals, piano and ukulele coalesced into a radiating heart-shaped heart that filled the stage. The legend of Irene Diaz has just begun and now is the moment to fall in love with her music all over again.
The incredible performance from these musicians only leaves the fans grasping for more air time from each artist. No doubt these tremendous artists will continue to work on future releases and shows in and around Los Angeles. Let’s hope they remember the small folks when they tour the world several times over. More info on each artist in link below.